First Catalan climate action summit concludes with 17 commitments

President Torra says Catalonia should lead climate revolution while activists protest outside

Roundtable discussion between companies and economic institutions at the Catalan Climate Summit in the Catalan National Theater, January 17, 2020 (by Pol Solà)
Roundtable discussion between companies and economic institutions at the Catalan Climate Summit in the Catalan National Theater, January 17, 2020 (by Pol Solà) / Lorcan Doherty

Lorcan Doherty | Barcelona

January 17, 2020 03:30 PM

President Quim Torra has said that just as Catalonia led revolutions in the past, it “should lead” the climate revolution in the future. The comments came during Catalonia’s first climate action summit at the Catalan National Theater in Barcelona.

Delegates from the public, private and third sectors gathered on Friday morning in an attempt to address climate issues, both global and local. At the conclusion of the summit,  a list of 17 general non-binding commitments were published, which will be monitored over time.

But outside environmental activists protested, as groups such as Fridays for Future, Moviment per la Justícia Climàtica, Extinction Rebellion, and Families for Future voiced their displeasure at not receiving invitations to the summit. 

Inside the theater, an introductory video showed how the climate emergency is already affecting Catalonia, highlighting incidents of flooding, forest fires, invasive species, and rising temperatures. Gathered delegates broke into applause when footage of Josep Rull speaking about the environment appeared onscreen. The former Catalan Minister for Territory and Sustainability was sentenced to a 10 and a half year prison term for sedition in October 2019.

Collaboration, innovation, action

Three round table discussions on the themes of collaboration, innovation, and action formed the main body of the summit. Representatives from local government and industry, including the Port of Barcelona and Fira de Barcelona trade fair, attempted to agree on concrete environmental measures.

President Quim Torra was among the invited speakers. He stressed how he would like Catalonia to be a state to have the power to implement more measures to address climate change. He said that while the goverment had declared a climate emergency, they are working for independence because it would “allow us to have a better country.”

The summit was organized by Damià Calvet's Catalan Ministry for Territory and Sustainability. In his speech Calvet acknowledged the concerns of activist groups, saying he “knows that people may be wondering why they were not called – we will do it in future and reach out to more sectors than have already.” He added that “action” is the key word and that the EU’s ambitious green deal plan “will become Catalonia's green deal plan as well.”

Youth movement

There was some acknowledgment of the role that young people have played in bringing climate issues to the fore. Two students were invited onstage to give their perspectives, one of them summing up by quoting poet García Lorca: “the worst feeling of all is the feeling that hope is lost”.

There was a message of support from Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, who said she was “looking forward to welcoming Catalan friends to Glasgow” this year for the COP 26 environmental summit.